The sports world has been turned upside down due to the coronavirus pandemic and the Olympics are not immune to the mess. The Summer Games have been put on the back burner as they were supposed to take place in 2020, but were delayed until 2021 and possibly later. Now, the Winter Olympics are on the horizon and hopefully by then things will be back to normal, or at least good enough for Beijing to host the 2022 Winter Games.
The NHL will more than likely make their return to the Olympics after refusing to let their players attend the 2018 games. So, from a Flyers perspective, who will represent their country internationally?
Only two of the five Flyers that accompanied their team to the Olympics in 2014 remain with the squad, that being Michael Raffl and Jakub Voracek, both will likely get the call once again for Austria and Czech Republic respectively.
Elsewhere, there’s a good chance Oskar Lindblom will challenge for a spot on Team Sweden, ditto for Ivan Provorov, who is almost a guaranteed lock for Team Russia. Those four look to be all but set in stone, but the Canadian and American players will be harder to determine.
Right now, there are four Americans who might have their name on the Team USA radar, being Kevin Hayes, James Van Riemsdyk, Shayne Gostisbehere and Joel Farabee.
The American roster won’t be as shallow as it was in 2014. With players like Auston Matthews, Jack Eichel, The Hughes brothers, the Tkachuk brothers, Kyle Connor and Jaccob Slavin all eligible this time around, there will be much more firepower to choose from.
JVR represented Team USA at the 2014 Games and posted seven points in six games. Ghost has only represented the U.S. once internationally, at the 2013 World Juniors where he won gold, but was relegated to Team North America for the 2016 World Cup of Hockey. Hayes has only represented Team USA twice, both at the Ice Hockey World Championships in 2014 and 2017. Farabee made his international debut at the 2019 World Juniors and this will be his first time to crack the National Team at the mens level.
JVR has taken the league by storm in 2021. Posting 18 points the the Flyers’ first 13 games, he’s having the best start to his career at the ripe age of 31. Whether this momentum can carry on for a full season, and early into next year will determine further whether he is considered or not. If for some reason this renaissance lasts he may earn a spot at his second Olympics.
Ghost’s stock has been free falling for a few years and even a serious rebound now may not be enough to earn himself a spot. With young guns Quinn Hughes, Jaccob Slavin, and Charlie McAvoy playing great and vets Ryan Suter, John Carlson, and Seth Jones around, there may not be enough room for Gostisbehere.
Hayes has very little experience with Team USA. With only two World championships and one U-18 Tournament under his belt, he has never gotten the call to a major stage. While his offensive totals have improved slowly throughout his career and his two-way play is a valuable tool, is he a valuable enough option to get on the USA radar? There’s a good chance he will be considered, and may even be a final cut from the process, but it feels like a long-shot that he’ll secure a roster spot.
Joel Farabee is a work in progress. He shows signs of utter brilliance from time to time but is far from a finished product. He name may circulate, but it could just be too early in the career of the 20-year-old to make a serious run at an Olympic spot this time around.
The Canadians are much further from a lock. The Flyers class would be headlined by Sean Couturier and Claude Giroux, who was a notable snub from the 2014 roster. Doug Armstrong, Team Canada’s general manager, stated he expects a “youth movement” when assembling the roster, which may not be great odds out of the gate for Giroux and Couturier, who will be 34 and 29 respectively.
Youth movement aside, Couturier would have the better chance to make the team. Though as a pretty strict center, he’ll be competing with some of the top players in the world for a position. Sidney Crosby and Connor McDavid will probably take the top two spots and Couts will probably fight with some familiar competition for one of the remaining spots. Chances are Ryan O’Reilly and Patrice Bergeron, the two players Couturier has battled for the Selke Trophy the past few seasons, will be considered for spots as well. Guys like Nathan MacKinnon, Steven Stamkos, and John Tavares could all play on the wing if need be, so chances are it’ll come down to some mixture of the Selke finalists to make the group.
Giroux will probably be considered, but with so much talent to choose from, there’s a good chance he will not make the roster this time around either. It’s also possible, though unlikely, that guys like Travis Konecny and Phil Myers are getting their looks, but may not be good enough to steal a spot from anyone else at this point.
There is one Flyer that is all but guaranteed to make the roster and that’s 22-year-old goalie Carter Hart. The young phenom currently has 45 wins in 83 career games with a 2.69 goals against average and .913 save percentage. His biggest competition for a spot will be his childhood idol Carey Price and potentially his biggest rival MacKenzie Blackwood. All three have represented Team Canada internationally, Blackwood at the 2016 World Juniors, Hart at the 2017 and 2018 World Juniors, and Price won gold with Team Canada at the 2014 Olympics. There’s a good chance all three will make the roster, who will get the starting gig will be determined.
Hockey at the Olympics is always fun and if the NHL allows their players to return, you’ll see the best players in the world unite and square off. The Flyers will be represented somehow, but how many has yet to be determined. There are many cases to be made, but with over a year to go until the games, theres plenty of time for each nation to sift through their roster and pick the best players to take home the gold.
By: Dan Esche (@DanTheFlyeraFan)
photo credit: usahockey.com hockeycanada.ca nhl.com